See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bad boys of art.


"Bad, bad, bad boys, make me feel so good..."
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I have to admit I don't know a great deal about the personal lives of famous masters of art, except for a couple of the bad boys.  I was only interested in art-works and technique - from which I learned more about art than knowing the intimate details of an artist's life.  A well known artist in Boston once told me, "Follow the brush strokes - they will teach you everything."  He himself said he learned more by closely studying a painting of the early masters than by anything he learned in art school.
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I've been pondering the idea of the necessity of being in the state of grace to paint worthily images of the saints and heavenly things.  Most people know of Fra Angelico, whose name in religion is Fra Giovanni da Fiesole of the Dominican Order, who left a great treasure trove of work to the Roman Church.  Ven. John Paul II declared him blessed supposedly explaining his body of work was miracle enough to warrant the beatification - thus confirming why the friar came to be known as 'Angelic'.  His work is truly amazing in it's vivid, nearly heavenly colors, his figures chaste and beautiful, his angels awesome, his composition simple and without sentimentality - full of truth and beauty.  One could go on and on.  Being a friar in a convent must have been a great support to his life of holiness and 'ecstatic' painting.
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However, monastic life didn't help Fra Lippi much.  It is said he was more or less coerced into becoming a Carmelite when he was sixteen or so, wherein he learned to paint and accomplished fame.  As chaplain to the Margherita in Prato he seduced one of the nuns who posed for him, took her home and kept her.  (Artists love to collect pretty things.)  The Medici's arranged the necessary laicizations and the couple married and had a son.  It all sounds rather modern, doesn't it.  Lippi produced a son, who also became a well known painter by the name of Lippi - Filippino, or 'little Philip' - a much more sentimental painter, like Boticelli, who seems to me the Nicole Kidman of artists.  (Sentimental, cosmetically beautified, mythologized and over-romanced.)
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Lorenzo Monaco - which translates Lawrence the Monk, since the artist lived for a time as a Camaldolese, wasn't probably such a bad boy - although he left the monastery - again, a fairly modern experience.  His real name is Piero di Giovanni.  I prefer his work to that of Fra Angelico.
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I suppose the award for the worst bad boy has to go to Caravaggio.  Hot tempered, kind of a drunk, disrespectful, promiscuous, he even killed someone I think.  He fled the authorities, was bailed out by the pope, but died in poverty.  He was a rough guy.  His work startled his contemporaries, many of whom felt they were immoral and reflected his own immorality.  Today we call them masterpieces.
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Now days much ado is made about iconographers fasting and praying before and during their icon 'writing'.  Some people think only monks or nuns can 'write' an icon.  The rules set forth can sound almost cultish the way some folks explain it.  Truth be told, icons have always been painted by men (more recently women) very similar in character to the great (or not so great) Western artists.  Today, as in days past, many 'real' icons are produced in workshops, and not by monks or nuns.  The human tendency is to place our heroes or models - in this case, iconographers, on pedestals.  Truth is, only artists can do that with the proper perspective, that is, they pose their subject to match an ideal of perfection - and quite often their interior life may not be as good as their work.  (Note: My 'schism' comment removed because it was dumb.)
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I think the reason so many Latin rite faithful have fallen in love with Orthodox icons is due to the fact the Western Church went through a severe period of iconoclasm shortly after the Council.  The faithful longed for truth and beauty, and they were forced to seek it elsewhere.
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Art:  Lorenzo Monaco: The Meeting between Saint James the Major and Hermogenes.  If people are going to be beatified based on their portfolio, I would think Monaco could be.
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Oh.  Did you know Andy Warhol went to Mass almost every day?

A day offline...


No TV, no radio, a day of silence.
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Well, I did pick up my emails before going to bed... nothing important however.
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I'm not sure being online is important either.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

January 22: Day of Penance



Fast and pray.
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In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass "For Peace and Justice" (no. 22 of the "Masses for Various Needs") should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day. - General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 373 - USCCB
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Comments closed until Saturday.

Christian Unity Week.


This is the week of prayer for Christian unity.
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It was a big deal when I was in grade school just before Vatican II.  I think the Pope believes it's a big deal too.  I don't think that many Catholics agree that it is however, considering how divided Catholics themselves seem to be...
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Skip around the Catholic blogosphere and tell me if you'd like to unite with the Catholic Church if you weren't already Catholic.  I love this one: "Chris Matthews is an odious swine!"  And then: "Medjugorje: Dialog? We Don't Need No Stinking Dialog!"  Of course you can be pretty darn sure anything on: "Catholic Caveman" is going to be offensive.   And usually any post that begins with: "You can't be Catholic and ___!"  As well as several posts on:  "Athanasius Contra Mundum". 
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I'm included in this slam-bam fest too you know: "Catholicism as a Game Show - on Indifferentism and Latitudinarianism."  Or: "Outing Priests and Bishops..."  Back at you though - anything by "Sr. Patricia" - (yeah, she just looks sweet.)  Or: "Dear Person who says all the responses in Mass quicker than every one else and really really loudly..." and just about anything else on K's blog. (I know - ain't she nothin'!) 
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Oh - and don't forget this one - which I really agree with BTW: "I am not going to Hell for anybody and especially not for refusing to ruffle feathers."
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Praying for Christian Unity.  Ah uh.
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Good nite Lonnie Anderson.

The Grand Inquisitor.



On the subject of background checks...
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Fr. Robert Fox, God rest his soul, purchased this icon of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta of Fatima from me a few years ago.  The original work was of the two Blesseds, with relicarios containing 3rd class relics of their clothing in reliquaries at each corner.  Fr. Fox definitely wanted the icon, but before he purchased it I had to go through a mini-inquisition of sorts.  He wanted to know details concerning my spiritual background.  Was I Catholic?  Did I attend Mass?  How often?  Did I work?  Where?  What did I do?  Have I painted religious art before?  Do I pray?  How much?  The Rosary?  Was I married?  Single?  Did I live alone?  In a monastery?  How long?  Why did I leave?  Do I follow Church teaching?  The Pope?  Isn't your asking price a little steep?  Well then, would you add this and that detail?
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I wasn't put out, and I willingly added everything you see in the border to please Fr. Fox's taste.  The asking price was less than what a good  attorney charges for drawing up an average will and testament.  I obviously passed the background check and Father was pleased with the additions, since he purchased the finished icon. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When the going gets rough, stay where you are... redux.




"Each of us has our cell and that cell can teach us what we need to know."
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My Bruderhoff brother sent me a wonderful article written by a priest I had never heard of before.  Fr. Rohlheiser wrote a reflection on the monastic counsel, "Go to your cell and your cell will teach you everything you need to know."  It seems to me Father's offering makes an excellent meditation about staying - in a vocation, a job - whatever.  It is the old proverb, bloom where you are planted, and echoes traditional monastic teaching.  I was pleased with what I read. 
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Sadly, other readers informed me that the priest's writings may not be entirely 'orthodox' and may contain elements of New Age phiolosophy.  I elected to take it down despite the fact other readers informed me his columns appear in diocesean newspapers across the country.   
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Nevertheless, I think my initial inspiration may be a helpful consideration for those constantly struggling with the idea of vocation - many times even after final vows - people spin there wheels thinking they are meant to be elsewhere or doing more.  Recently I heard about a monk I know who is taking a leave of absence from his community to discern his vocation.  Married couples sometimes go through that too... separating and ultimately divorcing.   
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Sometimes leaving may not always be the right answer to one's problem.  Looking back on my life, I realize there were times  when I left a job or situation I was unhappy with, I was doing so in order to avoid the trials of the former position, only to find the same issues pop up in the new circumstance.  The Imitation says, "Everywhere we meet the Cross!"  That is true - but everywhere we meet ourselves as well - and we're often the carriers of what ails us and quite possibly we affect those around us, thus increasing the discontent - unless we stay long enough, or rather endure the cure in situ
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Instead of basing this post on the article by the priest others objected to, I will first of all quote from 'approved' monastic writers, using the passages my friend Michael submitted in the comment box:
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Lessons from the monastic cell.
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"Go, sit in your cell, and you cell will teach you everything." I love the way certain of my favorite monk-writers address it as metaphor, and not just as physical space, just as Rohlheiser does. "The monk must build an interior mansion or cell in his heart, to which he ceaselessly returns in order to find the hidden presence of God. And having found it he remains there in loving contemplation. The Cistercian monk tries to live in deep peace even amid the distractions of the common life." (Andre Louf)
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"The monastic cell will be the scene of many stuggles, defeats and triumphs, many joys and many tears. The cell is like a womb from which I emerge again and again, reborn as a more mature, experienced self, ready once again to meet the challenges of the day. .....Steadfastness in the cell is the counterpart of stability in the abbey until death." (Charles Cummings O.C.S.O.)
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Obviously Rohlheiser's observations do indeed agree with traditional monastic understanding, especially as it can be applied to ourselves and our particular state in life.  Therefore he is not mistaken when he defines the cell as a metaphor and the importance of stability in the ordinary Christian's life:
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"Cell, as referred to here, is a metaphor, an image, a place inside of life, rather than someone's private bedroom. Cell refers to duty, vocation, and commitment.
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Go to your cell and your cell will teach you everything you need to know: Stay inside of your vocation, inside of your commitments, inside your legitimate conscriptive duties, inside of your church, inside of your family, and they will teach you where life is found and what love means. Be faithful to your commitments and what you are ultimately looking for will be found there." - Father Rolheiser 
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Thanks for the initial article DJ!  Thanks Michael R. for the good comments.
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Art: "Heretics Roasting By An Open Fire"   I made the title up.  The painting is by Canadian artist AndrĂ© Durand.

Removed.


I removed a post linking to an author whom other readers informed me was unorthodox.  My apologies, I did not know that before posting an excerpt from an article he wrote.  Thanks for correcting me.

"Oh! I didn't recognize you with your clothes on!"


I can't tell you how many times I've heard that before... (I'm kidding.  Or am I?)
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But in the case of St. Sebastian, depicted here with St. Fabian with whom he shares a feast day, it just might be an appropriate exclamation for many Catholics.  St. Sebastian is commonly depicted nearly nude in Western art, shot through with arrows.  In this representation he is depicted clothed in what appears to be rather regal soldier's attire, holding the instruments of his passion.
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January 20 is the memorial of St. Fabian and St. Sebastian
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Art:  Thanks to Idle Speculations

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First glimpse of the next President of the United States...


Scott Brown takes Massachusetts!  The Boss.
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CeCe Peniston - Inside that I cried

I just like this a lot. I'm sure I'll take it down tomorrow.

Hell on earth...


"There is no pit so deep His love is not deeper still" - Betsy ten Boom
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Spirit Daily ran the Time magazine cover today, reminding us of Rwanda... it fits well with the descriptions, videos, stills, emerging from Haiti.  Except for one thing - the people's faith.  All faiths seem to be melded together in Haiti, praying, praising God amidst the flames of suffering.  It makes me think of Betsy ten Boom, amidst the horrors of the concentration camp, suffering and dying, assuring her companions, "There is no pit so deep His love is not deeper still."  In the camp, as in Haiti, denomination hardly made a difference.
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In war and destruction, natural disasters and calamities, plagues and famines, it is not relativism for people of diverse faiths to assemble and pray together - to unite without checking into the orthodoxy of one another's religious practice.  No, not at all.  In such a state, everyone lies abject on the threshold of the house of God [Ps. 84] - without distinction.  Everyone looks heavenward, facing one another or looking east, together they pray to God.
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"This changes everything."
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I read that last week on a Haitian blog - immediately after the earthquake.  It really hit me - Haiti does change everything.  There are all sorts of people there, from every walk of life...  death made no distinction.  All lie abject on the threshold of the house of God.
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This changes everything - at least in my hemisphere.  I think it's about time we all change.
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Note:  I am not dismissing the ongoing suffering and desperate need facing the people of Haiti, I'm simply making an observation here.  Please continue to pray for the Haitians, and if you are able to donate money, send contributions to Catholic Relief Services, or one of your favorite emergency relief agencies.  The people of Haiti really do need donations - not to support a life style, but simply to live.
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Asking for donations, setting goals...



All rightey then...


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Image:  Progress thingy in the side-bar.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My favorite episode.

Massachusetts Voters!


Get out and VOTE!  Elect Scott Brown!

Background checks, inquiries, and stuff like that...



"How is this to be done if not by enquiring into these matters."
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Thus speaks Fr. John Boyle of Ashford, Kent in a post respectfully objecting to a statement made by Bishop Malcom McMahon to the Tablet regarding Church investigation into the private lives of applicants for the headships of Catholic schools:
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"Bishop Malcolm McMahon told The Tablet that the backgrounds of potential school leaders were not the concern of the Church and it should be up to applicants themselves to decide whether they were able to live according to church teaching. “Their family life isn’t scrutinised,” said the bishop. “I’d be rather ashamed if the Church was doing that to people. But we do expect people in leadership in the Church to live out their Christian commitment as best they can.”
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He also said that the Church was not opposed to civil partnerships. “Civil partnerships are precisely what they say they are. They’re not gay marriages or lesbian marriages. They’re simply a legal arrangement between two people so that they can pass on property and other rights in which they were discriminated against before,” he said. “We have many gay people in education and a large number of gay people in the Church, at least the same as the national average. I think a person who is leading a church school should live according to the Church’s teaching whether they are in a civil partnership or not. A civil partnership is not a marriage, it’s not a conjugal relationship.”" - Catholic Education
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Upon first glance the Bishop's statements sound perfectly reasonable inured as we all are in politically correct thinking, but it is an entirely different matter when it impinges upon Church teaching regarding faith and morals, or improprieties which could lead to scandal.  Fr. Boyle's article is a must read as he outlines quite well the importance of inquiring into the lives of those who are given leadership roles in the lives of the faithful and their children.
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"The backgrounds of potential school leaders, indeed of every living soul, is of immense concern to the Church since She is concerned about the salvation, not only of those who lead our schools, but of those whom they are charged to lead and teach. There needs to be some way of ensuring that our teachers are exemplary in their lives. Only in that way can they give example to the pupils and teach coherently what the Church teaches." - Fr. Boyle
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Likewise, the laity are well within their rights to inquire into the lives of those who are charged to lead and teach.

A Madonna for Haiti



If I ever finish the two paintings I am working on, I think I will try to paint a copy of this Sicilian icon in honor of the victims of the Haitian earthquake.
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The image is 17th century, oil on copper, inventoried in the Vatican Museums collection. It is a variation on the Carmine La Bruna Madonna, although this version is extraordinary in that the features of Our Lady and the Divine Child appear to be African. The contrast seems to be deliberate considering the figures in purgatory are decidedly Caucasian. 
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I am especially pleased to have found an authentic Black Madonna of such beauty.  Of course one is reminded of the verse from the Song of Songs, attributed to Our Lady:  "I am black but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem... " - Songs 1:5
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Continued prayers for the victims of the Haitian earthquake.
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Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Accountability.


Blowing in the wind.
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Several years ago I had a doctor I considered to be the best physician in the world, he was so kind and nice and caring.  One day as I was going to make an appointment with him, I found out he was no longer employed at the clinic I went to.  I found out he left in disgrace because his credentials had been falsified - he wasn't really a doctor at all.  I couldn't believe it, I called him at home and told him how sorry I was, that he was the best doctor I ever had, and would he be able to recommend someone like himself.  I never heard from him again.  With the new doctor I was finally diagnosed with actual illnesses my impostor doctor neglected to find.
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Around the same time, a former nun who had been a prioress at a very observant monastery, was in town soliciting funds for her 'hermitage'.  The nun fancied herself a mystic and I felt rather privileged to be in her confidence.  I assumed she had canonical status and was attached, 'incardinated' with the order she had been associated with previously, seeing she used their initials after her name and all.  I was able to have a couple of communities make generous contributions to her 'order'.  Only later did I find out from the prioress of the community she left that the nun had been ex-cloistrated, she was soliciting funds without permission of the local ordinary, and she was using the name of the order illegally.  Since that time the nun had moved from diocese to diocese.  Minor details I suppose.  (To be fair, I believe she is a sister in good standing with her current diocese.)
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Vetting.
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I could go on and on with several examples of professionals not being exactly what they say they are, and/or well intentioned church people, lay and religious, hitting on sincere folks to help support their lifestyles by free-will donations.  For instance I know of a young man who travels abroad extensively, who even has a side business while asking donations to cover his studies.  Legit?  Probably.  In dire need of funds?  Doubtful.  But man, he sure is Catholic.
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The point is, we have to be careful about following leaders/authorities who are in charge of nothing, or those whose credentials are if-fie at best.  And because someone says all the right stuff but still is an outsider, you gotta get some verifiable evidence before you throw support behind everyone.  What's the term today?  Vet - vetting.  But we Americans generally don't do that very well,  and conservative Americans may be the worst; if someone shows up waving all the right banners saying they are pro-life, anti-gay, and traditional - they are automatically labeled a good guy.  (Oh man!  And never criticise these people once they got the Good Housewives seal of approval.)  I may be exaggerating a bit, but you get what I'm saying.
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Rumours.
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One of my friends posted a sort of response to a rumor that unfortunately developed from an earlier post of mine.  (Link)  A discussion in the com-box ensued implying certain priests may have been black-listed (for lack of a better term) from ministering as a priest in this archdiocese.  That is not true however.  Nevertheless that seems to be an impression some lay people have regarding favorite priests of theirs, yet they - we - do not know the details.  And rightly so, since it is always a matter between the bishop and his priest.  Though a priest may not be incardinated in a specific diocese he visits, it is 'presumed' he would still be allowed to exercise his ministry there.  Nevertheless, it is common knowledge a few local priests are not ministering as priests (i.e. lacking an assignment) due to medical issues, and/or personal issues which require they be placed on leave or be given limited responsibilities.  Priests are people too - some have psychological issues just like lay people do - which at times precludes their functioning fully as priests.
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Some men who attended seminary and for some reason or another were not permitted to go on to ordination for a particular diocese, often are able to find a bishop willing to sponsor them and ordain them elsewhere, providing they agreed to be incardinated in that bishop's diocese and serve that particular local Church.  Sometimes, not always, the man's home diocese may not appreciate all that transpired in the process.  Sometimes a priest can acquire a reputation and may be deemed unsuitable for a particular diocese - this is all speculation of course, and I am not referring to any particular circumstance.  In any event, the local ordinary makes the final decision as to whether a particular priest or deacon is a good fit for his diocese.  One must remember, the bishop is the head of a community of priests who have been ordained to assist him:  "He is to have a special concern for his priests, to whom he is to listen as his helpers and counsellors."  Can. 384.  Consequently it would be wrong to assume a person has been black-balled.
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There ought to be a law.
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As I mentioned, in a previous post (now removed), several issues presented in the comment box.  Perhaps a few sections from the Code of Canon Law can shed some light on matters related to incardination, fund-raising, etc..  Indeed, I have no knowledge of law, I'm simply reading it as it is written - in law everything depends upon interpretation for individual circumstances, doesn't it.  That is why there are lawyers and tribunals.
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Actually, if I understand correctly, it is against Canon Law for a bishop to gratuitously refuse incardination to a cleric considered 'suitable and prepared' for ministry.  "Except for a grave need of his own particular Church, a Bishop is not to refuse clerics seeking to move whom he knows to be prepared and he considers suitable to exercise the ministry in regions which suffer from a grave shortage of clergy..." - Can. 271 - 1
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That said, "Every cleric must be incardinated in a particular Church or a personal prelature, or in an institute of consecrated life or a society which has this faculty: accordingly, acepalous or 'wandering' clergy are by no means to be allowed." - Can. 265 
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Ask questions.
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Without going into much detail - the post is obviously too long as it is - I personally know another priest in an Eastern diocese who is something of a gyrovague or wanderer.  I am told the bishop of the place he resides wants him to leave, but he was ordained for another jurisdiction and he was not incardinated into the diocese he resides.  See, it all gets rather confusing and I'm not helping much since I'm purposely being a bit vague about this so as not to offend the priest in question.  However, the situation raises a few questions.  Since faculties are granted by the bishop within whose diocese a priest is incardinated, which includes permission to celebrate the sacrament of penance, what if a confession one makes to a wanderer priest is invalid or illicit due to the fact the bishop of the place did not grant faculties to him?  That is unlikely of course, since I believe permission can be 'presumed' canonically, but can you see where doubt might enter in?  (I actually worried about this once.)
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As for fund raising, asking for donations - diocesan approval needs to be sought by clerics and religious - wandering or not.  (Although I do not know how that could be applied to the Internet.)  Yet there is interesting legislation in Canon Law regulating commerce and trade by clerics.  "Clerics are forbidden to practice commerce or trade, either personally or through another, for their own or another's benefit, except with the permission of the lawful ecclesiastical authority." - Can. 286
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Again - I'm just asking questions here - I'm not accusing anyone of anything.
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Cats With Disabilities...



I wonder if JK (Jamiroquai) would ever do a song by that name?
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See, that's what I think about - sometimes.  Although it is true, my cats are mentally challenged, disabled, whatever the PC term is supposed to be now.  Agnes has elimination problems - she urinates over the side of the box, so I have plastic covering the floor with newspapers 2 feet out on every side.  (In the basement of course - and each cat has an oversized litter box.)  Yes, I use unscented liter and clean the box once or twice daily.
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Agnes eats very well but remains quite thin-ish, and her solid waste is rocky-ish.  I know - TMI for a Sunday morning.  Otherwise she is kind of normal - albeit quite neurotic.  She is a dark beauty however, and I think very fashion conscious which accounts for her being so thin, she often reminds me that fashion models are quite thin, "As was Audrey Hepburn, eow-mow*."  She's right of course.
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Celine on the other hand is quite affable, very friendly, and quite overweight - she has an eating disorder.  She loves to eat and sleep.  I don't like to say she is retarded, rather I think she is just slow.  Her disability would be classified as developmentally disordered.  She is quite amusing actually, especially as she cleans herself.  She goes through the motions of course, her paw wiping away on her face and head, but she forgets to wet it with her tongue, thus her tongue wags and pokes in and out as if wetting her arm, while the paw just wipes.  Nothing gets cleaned.  I love her though, she is my constant companion - quite like a dog.  Come to think of it - she may have that disorder as well - a dog trapped in a cat's body.  Naturally, being a Catholic cat, she would never ask for reassignment surgery.
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This morning we were chatting over coffee after attending services at the Crystal Cathedral on TV, and Celine said to me, making a sort of clucking sound while gazing out the window at the birds gathering for breakfast,  "Come spring, We should assemble all the squirrels in the neighborhood and give them baths."
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"Oh really hon, why do you say that?" I queried.
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"Well earlier I saw the white squirrel and he seemed quite grey, and the black squirrel looked rather dusty yesterday too.  I couldn't help but notice that the grey squirrels seem to run from both of them.  So I decided it must be because they are so dirty."
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"Oh how sweet darling, but I doubt we'd get a squirrel to settle down long enough to go through all of that,"  I replied with a chuckle.  "And anyway, we're not very good about bathing ourselves are we darling."
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"Eow!"  Agnes' laugh out loud echoed from the other room.
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No, Celine wasn't offended at all.
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Notes:
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*"eow-mow" - Cat-speak for, 'you know' or 'I know' - often used interchangeably.  I know.
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The song, "Cats With Disabilities" probably would sound very much like "Travelling Without Moving".
... Or maybe "Love Foolosophy" - yeah, I like that better... "I don't want the world, I want you..."
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